Building on Old Wisdom
: Strategies for Energy Efficient Improvements in Traditional Buildings on the Sichuan Ancient Salt Road

  • Yinyin Zhou

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis addresses issues surrounding the design and construction of buildings associated with the Sichuan Ancient Salt Road (SASR). Of particular interest are buildings from the 18th to 20th century when rich natural resources were greatly exploited along the road. Chongqing, located in the middle of this east-west old trade road (SASR) in southwest China, attracted a considerable number of tradesmen and labours with its abundant salt resources.

Commercial activities that developed encouraged local industries and promoted the development of architecture in Chongqing and its surrounding area. New building techniques were introduced by the tradesmen and this brought new concepts from their hometowns. These migrant-inspired techniques had a significant effect on existing local styles and methods as the new ones showed the potential to tackle the issues associated with the local climate in building design. The potential benefits of these new techniques and how they impacted the techniques and local building skills have been studied. The conclusion provides insights into the refurbishment of historical buildings and also the construction of contemporary buildings which have adopted traditional styling in Chongqing.

Previously, the buildings which were built by the migrants or designed with functions to meet migrant needs were studied. The research described here considered from the macro perspective of the impacts of the trade road or on a certain type of architecture and techniques in particular locations. However, the holistic analysis and evaluation of the migrant building techniques on the road in Chongqing can be developed further.

This research adopts a mixed methods approach including a literature review and case studies of the qualitative research and data evaluation of the quantitative research. The literature review considers the styles and techniques of the traditional timber-framed buildings and the key components of such buildings that were affected by interregional commercial activities and migration on the SASR in Chongqing. The outcome of the quantitative data indicates the optimal options for a local bioclimatic building design for retrofitting or new construction and the potential development of the techniques introduced by the migrants.

Case studies analysis demonstrates the positive and negative impacts of the migrant techniques which were conducted in previous design in Chongqing and the potential contribution of such techniques in future design for the refurbishment of historical buildings and contemporary buildings with traditional styling. The techniques arising from the migrants and the locals are compared with the guidelines developed in the quantitative analysis, which is an important contribution of this research to the field of knowledge. The integration of qualitative and quantitative methods provides a more comprehensive view of the research. The achievement and contribution of the analysis of migrant techniques provide an opportunity to harmonize economic development with the conservation of architectural heritage in the circumstances of developing urbanisation.
Date of Award29 Sep 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAdrian Pitts (Main Supervisor) & Yun Gao (Co-Supervisor)

Cite this